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20 Women Raped By Cameroonian Army – Human Rights Watch 

The Human Rights Watch has said that Cameroonian soldiers raped 20 women and killed a man in a raid last year in the English-speaking secessionist region of the country.

The agency said the attack was against Ebam, a village in south-west Cameroon, one of the worst in the army’s four-year battle against armed rebels.

Four of the women who were raped had disabilities and a 34-year old man was killed in a forest surrounding the village, Vanguard reports.

Witnesses were quoted as saying that more than 50 soldiers entered Ebam by foot before dawn on March 1 last year, in retaliation against civilians suspected of cooperating with separatist fighters, including offering them shelter.

In 2017, resentment over years of perceived discrimination at the hands of Cameroon’s francophone majority resulted in a declaration of independence by anglophone radicals.

Their self-declared state, Ambazonia, has not been recognised internationally, and the central government in Yaounde has responded with a crackdown.“Sexual violence and torture are heinous crimes that governments have an obligation to immediately, effectively, and independently investigate, and to bring those responsible to justice,” said Ida Sawyer, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“One year on, survivors of the Ebam attack are desperate for justice and reparations, and they live with the disturbing knowledge that those who abused them are walking free and have faced no consequences.”

The army declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

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One 40-year-old woman told HRW that five masked soldiers entered her home.

“One of them abused me. He said: ‘If you don’t have sex with me, I will kill you!’. I was too afraid to say or do anything,” the woman told the rights group.

“After the rape, I ran into the bush where I spent two months. I am still upset and traumatised.”

None of the rape victims could receive medical care immediately after the attack partly because of cost of treatment and social stigma, said HRW, who nonetheless interviewed a doctor who later screened the women.

HRW also said that soldiers took at least 36 men to a nearby military base where they beat them and used violence that amounted to torture.

Villagers also reported soldiers stole money and other items from the homes they broke into.

Rights groups have accused both the separatists and government troops of having killed civilians during the separatist conflict since 2017.

The fighting has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people and forced over 700,000 to flee their homes.

[AFP]

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